The man in charge of the Queen of the North ferry the moment it struck an island and sank off the B.C. north coast, broke down in court on Monday.

Karl Lilgert took the stand and described what he saw moments before the crash on March 22, 2006, as the ferry travelled from Prince Rupert to Vancouver Island.

Lilgert, the ferry's navigation officer, said he was on the bridge and saw trees out of the corner of his eye.

"I go 'Holy f---,'" he said, choking up.

"I look away because I don't believe it," Lilgert said, his voice full of emotion.

Lilgert has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death in connection with the disappearance of two passengers, Gerald Foisy and Shirley Rosette, whose bodies have never been found and are presumed drowned.

hi-bc-130207-queen-north-1-4col

The Queen of the North sinking resulted in the loss of two lives. (CBC)

Lilgert told the court it was a routine sailing the night of the crash.

"It was a quiet night. It was black. I don’t remember a lot of traffic," he said. Just before the crash, Lilgert testified "there was gusts of wind up to 50 knots. The whistle in the doors was really loud."

He also admitted the radar on the ferry was new to him.

Lilgert said he made a course change after he saw another small boat on the water. He then asked quartermaster Karen Briker to make a second course alteration. Soon after that, the ferry crashed.

Lilgert and Briker, who are former lovers, were the only two people on the bridge at the time of the collision.

Asked about his relationship with Briker, Lilgert told the court it was a sexual affair that ended when their spouses found out.

There were no bad feelings between the two former lovers, Lilgert said. "We had got what we needed out of the relationship," he told the court.

Lilgert will resume his testimony on Tuesday.